Don’t break the bank: Tips to stick to a budget and stay out of debt

By Felix Sarver

Keeping track of expenses can be important for students who don’t want to run out of money before the school year ends.

Daniel Beeman, PhD student in economics, said a common mistake he sees students make is handling credit cards. Getting a credit card to establish credit history is reasonable, but using it can be a problem, Beeman said.

“It’s very easy to get in debt and students may not have the resources to get out,” said associate economics professor Carl Campbell III.

Another pitfall for students is cell phones, Beeman said. People make heavy use of high-tech cell phones and excessive services and are hit with additional fees and charges.

“I think proper management of consumer contracts [is good],” Beeman said.

Any good or service bought with a contract should be understood well, Beeman said. Avoiding additional fees is important.

Noting how much you spend on certain activities and services can be helpful in seeing where you need to save money, Beeman said.

“You might be surprised to see you spent a large amount of money in one particular area,” Beeman said.

Campbell said he recommends students budget monthly by putting cash in envelopes marked for items such as groceries and laundry. The cash in each envelope is the amount students shouldn’t exceed in a month, Campbell said.

Courtney Kolthoff, senior rehab services major, calculates how much money she can spend throughout the semester. “I see what I have at the beginning of each semester,” Kolthoff said. “I divide it by how many weeks are in that semester and that tells me what I can spend each week.”

Junior psychology major Ginger Eubanks keeps to a budget of $60 per week for expenses other than her bills.

“Sixty dollars a week is not much, but I make do with what I have,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks said she also shops online and if she knows she can get something cheaper on eBay, she will.

Beeman said budgeting isn’t always the best method of stopping yourself from spending too much money. The per-unit price of a product may be more worthwhile to look at rather than the total price of the product.

“If you’re looking at frozen pizzas, you can see this pizza is $4 and this pizza is $5,” Beeman said. “But the per-ounce price on the $5 pizza may be cheaper.”

The problem with budgeting is people can get stuck on an arbitrary number. Budgeting is useful but buying the right product is more important, Beeman said.